Six days In

Author: Beleg_Cuthalion1 <beleg_cuthalion1[at]>

Rating: Very slight language, PG at worst.

Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me; they belong to Joss Whedon and Co. Only the story is mine.

Category: I'm not entirely sure.

Summary: Sequel to "Six Hours In". Decisions are made.

It was six days in, six days where everyone came up with lots of ideas about what they were going to do next but no one made any decisions, that it all finally hit Xander. It had started in the most unexpected of ways; he thought of his parents. It was a simple thought, that he should call his mother just to prevent her feeble attempts at a guilt trip when they did speak. He realized that he didn't know where they were. He had no idea where his parents were. Most of the population of Sunnydale had fled before it was destroyed, but not all. His father was notoriously stubborn, so he may have stuck it out. If they did, they were dead. If they didn't, he couldn't find them and they would have no way of finding him.

Any relationship with his parents, any chance at reconciliation or closure was absolutely gone. It didn't hurt. It just felt annoying, like when someone gets the last word in an argument you had given up caring who won.

What of Willow's parents? Had they left? He didn't know that either. They had always been distant, both to Willow and to him, but he felt a twinge at the thought that they may have died in that pit. He would have to ask Willow where they were.

It was then that the full weight fell on him. He had suddenly thought he should ask Anya whether she thought his parents would have left or stayed. She had always had them pretty well pegged. He had actually stood up, wondering where she was, before it fell on him. Anya hadn't made it out. Anya was dead.

He fell back into his chair, stunned by the fact. They had been getting along well. Maybe, just maybe, they had been on track to some kind of life together. Maybe, just maybe, he would have been able to make up for the wrong he had done her. Not now.

Across the lobby of Angel's hotel he saw Buffy sitting and reading. His eye sought her out of its own volition. She was absolute proof of life after death and the existence of heaven. So, Anya was somewhere right now, but where? She had done so much evil in her long life, more then he could probably really conceive. It was only at the end, in a small fraction of her time on the earth, that she had done other then deliberate, self-serving evil.

Would it be enough? Could she have found her redemption and now be somewhere bright and warm and safe or were there other places, bad places where girls who sold their souls and tortured people had to go? If there was a heaven, could there not be a hell? If there were a hell, could he actually believe that Anya would be anywhere else?

To an outside observer, Xander had simply stood briefly and then sat back down, his expression never changing, but in truth he was frozen. He wasn't able to move at all. He could only sit still, his mind running again and again over the same ground. She was dead. He had ignored it. She didn't deserve it. It should have been him. It should have been Andrew. Why her?

There were no answers or reasons. He was old enough and worldly enough to know that. Chance or fate took those it would and there was no logic or poetry or justice to it. Still, she deserved to be mourned and he had not, yet.

"Xander," a soft voice said, "You're shaking." A hand gently rubbed his shoulder. He turned and looked, confused. He was surprised to see Buffy sitting next to him. She was right; he had suddenly been overcome with trembling and hadn't noticed. He was surprised she had.

"I…" Xander's voice broke and he had to clear his throat to continue, "I was going to ask Anya something."

"Oh," Buffy said with understanding in her voice, nodding her head once. She reached out to him. He didn't move but she moved closer to him.

"I actually stood up and was trying to figure out where she was," he said, "and it hit me."

Buffy didn't speak. She drew his head down to her shoulder. With only a little hesitation he let her and she wrapped her arms around him. Physically it was strange, her holding him when he was so much larger then she but they managed. She began stroking his hair and rocking slightly.

They sat in silence for a time, till Xander said, "I wonder why it took me so long?"

Buffy said, "Doesn't matter. It doesn't mean you didn't love her." Xander almost gave a very cynical reply to that, but it didn't feel right just then. It also didn't feel right to be holding back during such a moment but he did. They were silent for moment. This time, Buffy broke the silence, "It's okay to cry."

"I don't feel like crying," he answered. "I don't know what I feel like doing."

"I understand that."

"What if I just feel like sitting here for a while?" he asked.

Buffy tightened her embrace for a moment. "That's okay too."

"We were doing better, me and Anya." He said.

"I noticed that," Buffy said. "It was good."

"Too late now."

"Yeah." Buffy kept rocking him as she spoke the harsh truth softly. They sat together in silent mourning, both thinking of the crass, outspokenly crude, but ultimately good-hearted woman they had lost. The entire time Buffy held Xander and wished he would cry.

"You're treating me like a child and I don't seem to mind," Xander said after a time, "normally that bugs me."

"I know I am," Buffy said, resting her cheek against his hair. "Xander, there's something I haven't told you."


"I'm sorry about your eye," she said.

Xander didn't move. "Okay." It wasn't enough, not nearly. It didn't make up for her ignoring his pain and need, for trying to send him away or for trying to shut him out but it was enough for now. It was a start.

"I'm so tired," Buffy said. "I have so many choices to make and I just can't seem to begin making them. It was the greatest feeling in the world at first, having the whole world laid out in front of me. I would imagine going here or there and doing all these different things but now it all scares me so much. I have no idea what to do."

Xander moved then, sitting up but not breaking contact with her. Now they were sitting together, one not resting on the other. "What do you want to do?"

"I want to go to college," she replied immediately.

"So go," Xander said simply.


"Does it matter?" Xander asked. "Anywhere that will accept an old dropout like you."

Buffy smiled a little but it quickly faded. "Who's going to pay for it?"

"Grants and loans," Xander said. "Even I know that."

"You make it sound so easy," she replied. "It isn't. Who's going to support me while I'm a student and more importantly, who's going to make sure Dawn doesn't starve to death?"

Xander was tempted. He was oh, so tempted to simply say "me" and bind himself to her and Dawn for years to come. It would be so easy and some part of him wanted it more then his next breath. Something held him back. On the bus that first day in, he had resolved that he had to be a man and do what was best for himself. He simply wasn't sure that this was it, so he held back.

"What about your father?" he finally asked. "That damn… he owes it to you"

"You should know by now he isn't going to help us," Buffy said. There was a trace of something forlorn in her, but just a trace. "He isn't a factor in my or Dawn's life now. We both know that. He isn't the man I can count on."

"I know. It's just so wrong."

"I have Giles, even if he has other things, big things, to do," Buffy said, "He's the man I count on; one of them anyway."

"Don't," Xander said.

"Don't what?" she asked, her voice still calm and unsurprised.

"Don't placate me. Don't say nice things just to make me feel better. I don't want to be patronized and I don't want to feel better." Xander drew away from her a little.

"I want you to feel better, even if I know you can't."

Xander looked at her. He took a deep breath, controlling a sudden resentment. "Thank you for that." It was clear he wasn't speaking his mind.

Buffy sighed in exasperation. "Okay, you want to wallow a little, that's fine. I understand, but don't you act like I was just being patronizing. Yes, I was going to say you were the other man I can count on. Yes, I was saying it at this moment to try and cheer you up. It's still true. What I'm not going to do is actually be patronizing and give you some kind of list of all the times you've proven that and I've acknowledged it."

"Buffy… okay, I appreciate it. I'm just not in the right frame of mind."

"I know," she answered.

They sat together in silence for along time. It was Buffy who broke it. "What are you going to do?"

"Go somewhere. Get a job. Find an apartment. Live."

Buffy nodded. "Good plan."


They were silent again for a while. Again, Buffy broke the silence, "Where?"

"I don't know," Xander said. "I don't care. Best money, I guess."

Buffy moved away from him, seeming to draw in on herself and look at the floor. "Do you think…" she stopped, cleared her throat and looked suddenly straight at him. As it had for years, when she looked as now, unsure and vulnerable, her eyes wide and so bright and her jaw set, it made him think of a stubborn little girl. It had long been one of Xander's frailties that this woman could, with such a glance, break his heart and will. He feared what she would say, because there could be no refusing it.

"Do you think," she went on, "that there could maybe be a college there?"

He looked at her in surprise. In his ever present insecurity he had never imagined that this was what she would say. "What?"

"I know it's terrible and selfish of me, but do you think Dawn and I could go with you?" Buffy said in a rush. "It's just that… I can't make any money and… if it were just me I would never, but there's Dawn, and…"

Xander stared at her, happiness and hope flaring in his heart, but realism won out when he spoke. "You want me to support you and your sister while you get an education while I get what? Two roommates out of the deal?" It came out harsher then he intended. "I guess I really am the guy you count on." He stood up. It was this very thing that he had deeply wanted, wanted so much that he had consciously repressed it, and it was strange that now that it had been offered it felt like being used.

"I know, Xander," she said. "You really are."

He shook his head. He felt awful for what he was about to say, but it needed saying. "What's in it for me? Even if I am the one you can count on, I deserve to ask that question."

"I know," Buffy said, standing as she spoke. "You're right. I'm just scared of being on my own, of having no one, and that's what I have to do. It was wrong of me to ask." She walked away, stopping at the stairs and turning. "Know this. There's no one else I would have even considered asking." She turned and walked up the stairs to the room that she was using.

Xander watched her go. She had gotten to the first landing when he called to her, "Buffy. Why?"

She turned. "Why what?"

"Why did you ask me? Just for the money?"

Buffy looked hurt. "That doesn't deserve an answer." She went on and out of sight.

Xander watched her go. He stood very still. The old saw about watching what you wish for, because you might get it ran through his mind. No, it had not been what he wished for. He had wished that she would assume that he would stay near her simply because that was how it had to be. Before, he had wanted so much to offer what she had asked for, but when she asked it had made it feel wrong. It was the way she said it. She didn't say that she simply wanted him close. She didn't say that Dawn needed him or that she needed him. She had said that she needed his paycheck.

Anya had been enamored with money, but no one had really understood it but him. He had always known that he mattered more to her then money. He had never doubted. She just thought that since they already had each other, why not have money too? It made him smile and it felt good but rapidly faded. How he missed that. With the others in his life he always doubted, even when he shouldn't.

Did it matter why he was there as long as he got to be with her?

It mattered. It mattered a lot.

Maybe, something way back in his mind asked, he wasn't being fair. She had looked as if the blunt question had hurt her. Why, the distant voice asked, would she be hurt?

Maybe, just maybe, she was making assumptions. Maybe she assumed that he would know that she cared for him. In spite of all the times they had conflicted, sometimes bitterly, in the past they had always managed to find each other again.

Was it possible, despite what the fearful parts of him whispered in his ear, that she had taken for granted that he would know she wanted him there, that she and Dawn needed him for him.

Or, perhaps, she had wanted to use him. Sadly, he was forced to admit that with Buffy, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. She was far from perfect. There was no way to know her mind, not really. No reasoning or internal debate could really help him.

Where reason failed, faith was left. Reason was a weak spot with Xander but faith was not. Faith in certain people was what he did best. Did Buffy deserve his faith?

Yes. In spite of all her flaws, her selfishness, her taking him for granted almost all the time, something made him believe she did. He knew he could be wrong. She had failed his faith before, as he had hers. If so, he could always leave later.

There was a nagging doubt that he had merely rationalized an excuse to follow after her. He went up the stairs and to Buffy's room. It never occurred to him to knock before entering. She was lying on the bed with her back to the door and didn't move when the door opened. "Do I have to constantly remind you that Dawn and I love you," she said, "and want you near us always?"

Xander felt some of his load of doubt lift. "I guess you do," he said. "I'm dumb that way."

"I love you," She said, rolling to her other side to face him. "Dawn loves you. Don't make me go it alone. Don't try to go it alone yourself. That never works for us."

Xander nodded in agreement. "Okay."

"So are we going to be roomies?"

"Yeah," Xander said. Then he grinned, "But this is not a charity. You're going to pay half the rent."

"Half?" Buffy said, "A third I think. I'm not paying for Dawn."

"We could get a two bedroom and make her sleep on the couch. It would be cheaper," Xander suggested. Then he waggled his eyebrows at Buffy, "Or I could share with her."

"Hey!" The nascent laugh died on Xander's lips and that made Buffy grow somber also. He stepped to the bed and lay down. She moved next to him and held him, comforting him as his tears began.

"I just miss her so goddamned much," he said.